Questions are being raised about the role of jail officials and the security apparatus of the prison.
New Delhi: Tihar jail, one of the largest prisons in South Asia, has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. Despite being a high-security jail, criminals and gangs for years have kept operating from inside the Tihar jail, giving rise to questions on the involvement of jail officials and the security apparatus of the prison that houses some of the most dreaded criminals of India. Recently, the plot of killing of Punjabi popular pop singer Sidhu Moosewala in Punjab’s Mansa district is believed to have been hatched from inside the Tihar jail by a gang led by Lawerence Bishoni who has been lodged in this high-security jail in Delhi.
According to sources who have worked in the Tihar jail, it is impossible for gangs to function without the involvement of jail officials that are responsible for guarding the prisons. Communication networks like cell phones and other modes of communications can freely flow within the Tihar premises if an inmate has got “connections” with the right people within the jail, said an officer who has earlier worked in the Tihar prison.
Explaining how the nexus between the jail officials and the inmate could possibly work, Dr Kiran Bedi, former IG of Tihar prisons, told The Sunday Guardian, “Nothing irregular can enter inside prisons without an internal nexus at any level. Anything can be gotten inside the jail at a price which is determined by the demand of that item. The price also goes up based on the need or the paying capacity of the inmate. Higher the risk, higher the cost.”
Dr Bedi further added that the checks are missing or they are not effective. “Perhaps the checks are done more for records rather than meaningful reasons. The checks are also done by the same staff who are protecting each other. I feel checks need to be adequate and by outside teams and not insiders.”
Another former DG of Tihar prisons said that most of the staff in jail are busy record keeping and some of them who are involved in the checking and strict vigilance of the criminals are most often than not seen hand in glove with them. This former DG further said, inmates who are “big” criminals also set up their small gang within the prison and they operate through the other inmates who are not under the radar of the jail officials.
“Criminals like Bishnoi and Neeraj Bawana have a huge network and small petty criminals who are lodged in the jail would like to associate themselves with such big criminals for protection both within and outside the jail. These big criminals give them protection and, in turn, the petty ones carry out their job,” the former DG said.
A jail official from Tihar also told this correspondent that most often, notorious criminals operate through VoIP calls (Internet calls) and internet-based messaging applications to operate their nefarious activities from within the prison, using VPN servers. This is done to evade tracking of the individual and the cell number from which the phone is being operated. It is also being said through Delhi Police sources that Lawernce Bishnoi and his gang operated from inside the Tihar jail by using these VPN servers and internet-based messaging applications to communicate with their gang members outside and some of who are even based out of Canada and Thailand.
Police officials who worked with Tihar prison also said that some of the information is transacted when these gangsters or prisoners are taken to court for appearances. Explaining how it works, the police official said, “When criminals are taken to court, they are not handcuffed and they meet a lot of people inside the courtroom. Some of their gang members also come to the court and it is then that some crucial information is passed on.”
Contraband items within the prison also reach the jail early in the morning when the jails are opened and inmates are sent for fieldwork. The contraband items are thrown inside the prison from outside and it is then collected by the respective inmates. Asked if jammers or mobile tracing devices are installed inside the prison, a jail official told this correspondent that some prisons do have jammers, but most of the time these jammers are destroyed by the inmates themselves or with time, they figure out a black spot where jammers do not work to make their phone calls.
The SC had also come down heavily on the Tihar Jail officials last year when the court was apprised how through the use of mobile phones from inside the prison, evidence of an economic offence was destroyed.